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"Master violin" is one of those phrases that can confuse rather than clarify.
There is no international violin grade classification policing organization. The term is actually used very loosely, at best.
Hopefully, this brief article is helpful in evaluating claims of "Master Violin" status.
What is meant by the descriptor, “Master Violin”?
There are at least three meanings, which are summarized below.
1) Expertly restored (by Master restorers) old violins that are well-authenticated as having been made by renowned violin makers of the 17th, 18th or early 19th Centuries
Instruments in this category would include those by such makers as Paulo Maggini, Gaspar da Salo, Andrea Amati, Jakob Stainer, Joseph del Gesu Guarneri and, of course, Antonio Stradivari. There are many other Masters who are lesser known to the general public, but whose instruments are masterpieces of great value.
The image to the right is a a Strad.
The instruments in the “Old Masters” category sell in a wide range, from tens of thousands of dollars to more than $1,000,000. Violins by the “Big Three” (Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri) generally fetch the highest prices.
The makers include such notable figures as Jonathan Cooper and Joseph Curtin. In fact, Bernd Dimbath, owner of Heinrich Gill is regarded as one of these contemporary Masters.
The image to the right is a Joseph Curtin.
Violins by these violinmakers typically sell in the $10,000 to $25,000. New Joseph Curtin violins have a base price of $44,000. That being said, Curtin holds the world record for a “played in” instrument sold at auction ($132,000!).
Generally, the top echelon living Master violinmakers have waiting lists ranging from several years to a decade!
3) New regular production violins made by luthiers regarded as Master violin makers by the workshops that employ them
Master violins by these workshops, generally selling in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, are the ones that normal mortals can purchase and receive in weeks or months rather than years.
The image to the right is a Heinrich Gill Model 68 Master Violin.
Well-known contemporary workshops that make semi-standardized regular production (i.e. there are model numbers) Master grade violins include: Wilfer & Sons (Germany), K.C. Strings (USA), Ithaca Strings (USA), Ernst Heinrich Roth (Germany) and Bernd Dimbath/Heinrich Gill (Germany).